Why You Shouldn’t Be Nervous for Your First Marathon

922874_4931838093758_1915257636_nI won’t be the first to tell you that running a marathon takes a lot of hard work. Most training programs last anywhere from 14 to 18 weeks and over the course of that time period you’ll log literally hundreds of miles. And what for? A few hours of running on a single day culminating the entire experience in a celebration of all of your hard work and dedication. Now, for a first-timer like myself, that is a lot of pressure on a single day, a single run. That pressure cannot amount to a lot of anxiety the week leading up to race day. But remember when I said this is a “celebration?” Well, it’s true.

My marathoner friends tell me I’m ready. I’ve logged every workout, tackled my 20-milers and (knock on wood) have made it to race weekend relatively injury-free. As I write this on the plan ride out to California, I found a note one of my coworkers and friend, left on my desk in the middle of this past week. She outlined 10 reasons why she is confident I’m going to “rock Big Sur.” The note was genuine and helped put me at ease. It was also too good not to share, so I’m sorry Megan but I’m putting you on blast and letting everyone know why they shouldn’t be afraid to run their first marathon either.

  • “You’ve conquered 10th Street how many times? Like a million. Look at your log and count the number. It’ll surprise you.”- 10th Street is a very hilly road near work that we use for hill workouts and hill runs are vital to Big Sur preparation. But this is good advice for any first-timer- look over your log, look at your workouts, your miles. You’ve come SO far.
  • “You dominated your 20-milers. I remember how nervous you were before it and how ecstatic you were when you finished it successfully.” –This is true, I was scared out of my mind for both 20-milers but I finished both of them feeling strong and happy. Even if your 20-milers weren’t perfect, you still managed to get them done and that’s what counts. You can cover the miles, what’s 6.2 more?
  • “You did all the little things- you’ve done enough core/strength/yoga for the both of us. You’re strong girl!” – This is true and every first-timer should try to incorporate as much core, strength and yoga exercises to supplement their running as possible. I credit all of that to getting to the starting line injury-free.
  • “You followed your plan to a T. I’ve never seen someone so committed to a plan- that means you’re prepared.” – Again, yes I may have been a little neurotic in sticking to my plan but as a first-timer, I didn’t know how to train for a marathon so I figured following a training plan as close as possible would be the best way to learn.
  • “You’ve actually seen your progress- figure out how much your average pace has dropped since you started. Instant confidence booster.” – I’m not the only one who has seen a change in pace throughout marathon training. Many of my other runner friends said training for a marathon made them faster overall and it was definitely a confidence booster.
  • “Unless a landslide falls on you, you will finish. This is your only goal for your first 26.2 and there’s absolutely no reason you won’t make it.” – True, my only goal is to finish and I would advice other first-time marathoners to have the same goal. Time doesn’t matter because you really don’t know what to expect. If your goal is to just finish it’s a lot easier to handle.
  • “You’ve said it yourself that you’re committed to sticking to your game plan. That’s like 95.6 percent of the battle. You’ve got this thing in the bag before it’s even started.” – It’s good to go into any race with a set game plan but also to be willing to make changes along the way and be flexible depending on how you are feeling.
  • “If Joey Fatone can do it, you can. Period.” – Enough said.
  • “You can bank on those freaking stunning views to get you through the last 6.2 miles. Seriously, your first marathon is Big Sur…. Umm… Awesome!” – True. Big Sur is rated one of the top marathons in the country and it is on many people’s bucket lists of races. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to run my first marathon at Big Sur.
  • “You’ve made it to the starting line healthy and ready to go. Remember, the race is just a celebration of all the hard work, dedication, freezing cold miles, and sacrifices you’ve made to get there. There’s no pressure. You’ve got this!”

It’s true, there really isn’t any pressure on me and like everyone has told me, you only run your first marathon once. So now that I know I’m ready, I am going to enjoy every mile.

Big Sur Will Be My Victory Lap, But Not My Finish Line

Big Sur“This is your victory lap.”

A coworker said this to me last week as I began my minor-freak out that yes, this Sunday my Brooks will toe the starting line of my first full marathon on the opposite coast at the Big Sur International Marathon.

This past year has been an incredible journey and training for Big Sur has been no different. I’ve had flawless training, nailed my paces, conquered some pretty significant hills and followed my training plan to a T. So, why am I still so anxious for Sunday?

I think race anxiety is 100 percent normal. To me, what makes it such a confusing emotion is, although I’m nervous to run 26.2 miles, I’m also really excited for the entire experience. Other friends and coworkers have reminded me, “you only have a first marathon once, so enjoy it.”

That’s what I plan to do. I plan to take it all in. I’m going to have the most beautiful views to keep me company along Highway 1 and I don’t want to miss any of them. Also, the pressure of a target time is completely off because the good news about racing a new, longer distance is no matter what, it’s a PR!

But for some reason, as excited and nervous as I am for Big Sur, another emotion has recently surfaced that I wasn’t prepared for- sadness. For the past year, I’ve considered myself a beginner. I started running in March 2012 and have built up from there. Running (and finishing) Big Sur this weekend feels almost like I’m closing my beginner’s chapter of my running story. Some people might not like to admit this but I like to call myself a beginner. I like that I can relate to new runners and help them just as some of my other runner friends have helped me. And sometimes, calling myself a beginner gives me a sense of security so when I tell people I have a new PR, I can follow up with, it’s good for me because I’m a beginner.

Finishing Big Sur will officially mean I’m no longer a beginner runner. But it won’t change my status as a new runner and it won’t mean I’m done learning new things about running- believe me, I have a lot more to learn. I’ve learned a lot through this training cycle and I will continue to learn more as I recover in the following weeks and start up a new training cycle, whenever and for whatever that may be.

As I make my way up the coast of California, on the breathtakingly beautiful Highway 1, I vow to take it all in, listen to the runners around me, see every view, laugh at every unique mile marker, listen to the piano man and the taiko drummers and just enjoy it because it will be my first full marathon, but most certainly not my last. Big Sur will be my victory lap but not my finish line.

When I began training for Big Sur back in January I bought myself an Erica Sara “Say It Do It” bracelet with the words, “She believed she could,” engraved on one side of the medallion. The words are from a quote, “She believed she could, so she did.” As I cross the finish line at Big Sur on Sunday, probably with tears in my eyes, I’ll be able to complete the quote- “so she did.”

Running the 2013 Big Sur International Marathon

Big SurI’ve had a mix of emotions going into writing this post- I’m terrified, excited, confident, determined but mostly scared. But, I’m putting it out there and it’s happening, I’m running my first full marathon this spring and it will be the Big Sur International Marathon on April 28.

I know- Big Sur is probably not the best first-timer course; it’s extremely hilly, the conditions vary (a few years ago part of the course was wiped out by a landslide) and it’s just plain hard. But, it’s also a destination race, a race that is on thousands, maybe millions of runners’ bucket lists and I have the opportunity of a lifetime to run it with the Runner’s World Challenge, so that’s what I’m going to do. What’s that annoying saying again? Oh yeah, YOLO (you only live once).

Over the last few weeks leading up to the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend (in which I ran the half and PR’d by 17 minutes, cough, cough) many of my co-workers at Runner’s World have been insisting I run Big Sur.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” they said.

“You may never get this chance again,” they said, trying to guilt-trip me. Thanks, guys.

“You’re running it,” one flat-out said.

My parents think I’m over-doing it and have asked me why I don’t just stick to half-marathons for a while. My dad, a 16-time 26.2 veteran, even said I should wait to run my first marathon. I get it, they are parents, it’s their job to worry.

But in all of this persuading me to run or not run the marathon I realized I’ve only been listening to other people when I should really be listening to myself, to what I want to do. The truth is, my 2013 goal was to run my first marathon, and I just assumed it would be in the fall. But there is no reason I’m not ready now, so I’ve decided, whether people like it or not, I’m running it. What do I have to lose? My goal is to simply finish, no goal time in mind and to enjoy the entire experience.

My friend Lora, who will BQ at the Eugene Marathon on April 28 (same day as Big Sur!), posted an inspiring quote on the interwebs the other day that more or less sealed my decision.

“The truth is, I’m on a mission. And you can support me, or step out of the way, but there’s no standing still. I’m Big Sur-bound.”

Big Sur Medals